LOS ANGELES, January 10, 2013 — Is President Barack Obama a man of integrity? Or is he corrupt?
These aren’t questions that can easily be addressed through the partisan lens. Many Obama supporters worship him not for anything he does, but for what he is, and is not: He is a biracial political liberal, the culmination of liberals’ hopes and dreams. He is not a conservative Republican. For many liberals, that suffices. Yet President Obama is not a symbol or race, but a man and the President. He must be judged as a man and a president.
Many who loath Obama hate him not for anything he does, but because of who they think he is. Some of his critics are bigots. Some obsess over his birth certificate and his religion.
Most Americans neither hate nor love Obama like the passionate extremes do. We agree or disagree with him. This column is critical of Obama, but will not grovel before the racism cudgel.
There are three aspects to a person’s character. First is personal life. Is a person generous and considerate with loved ones, or selfish? Then there are beliefs. What does a person stand for? Do we stand up for our principles? Last, are we honest in our dealings with our fellow men? Do we believe that decent ends demand decent means, or do the ends justify the means?
Recent leaders offer interesting contrasts.
President George Herbert Walker Bush was a decent and honorable man, even according to most of his political opponents. A World War II hero, he was dignified, a gentleman, devoted to his family. He famously said, “Read my lips. No new taxes,” then just as famously (and in the eyes of conservatives foolishly) reversed himself. He paid a heavy price for that. Questions about his political core were always there; we never doubted his principles, but we doubted that his principles included fiscal conservatism. In retrospect, though, many conservatives are willing to grant him the mulligan on his tax pledge and respect him as a man of integrity.
President Bill Clinton was corruption personified in every aspect of his life. Known as “Slick Willie” (and not without some affection), he often turned to pollster Dick Morris to help him be all things to all people. “Triangulation” was his middle name.
He didn’t honor his wedding vows and had numerous extramarital affairs. He managed (as have numerous politicians in both parties) to not be subject to the draft without actually fleeing to Canada. In office, he gave us Whitewater, the Travel Office, FBI file abuses, he set the IRS to auditing conservatives, he lied under oath, and he managed to convince feminists that Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, and Juanita Broderick were all tramps who deserved it. Liberals thunder, “No one died when Clinton lied,” but that’s an open admission that he did lie, and baldly. It’s also a restatement of “the ends justify the means.” The economy was good (unrelated to anything he did), so liberals white (water) washed the corruption and raised him to iconic status.
President George W. Bush was despised by liberals not for anything he did, but for merely being. His enemies foamed at the mouth just by his showing up on their TV screens. Just as Obama’s enemies have attacked his very legitimacy as president, Bush’s were swearing to stop his presidency before he was inaugurated.
A deeply religious man, Bush faced leftists who see evangelicals as threats to democracy. They claim he “stole” the 2000 election from Gore (hence his illegitimacy). Because Clinton was corrupt, liberals needed Bush to be. Bush’s refusal to create his own scandals forced opponents to invent some for him. Americans heard about Valerie Plame, Enron, the firing of U.S. attorneys, and “illegal” wars which were approved by Congress.
Bush-haters are as irrational as many “birthers.” Honest liberals will admit they disagreed with his vision. His policy prescriptions bothered liberals because they believed he actually meant them. Liberals didn’t dislike him because they though he lied about his intentions, but because they thought he told the truth about them.
We should note that Bush had his own character issues, including alcohol abuse and drunk driving. His service in the National Guard was more prestigious than Clinton’s time at Oxford, but it wasn’t the same as his father’s service in WWII. At forty he returned to his religious roots and turned his life around. America is about redemption, and well before he got into office, Bush was a solid citizen.
President Obama is complex. In his personal life he is a role model, totally devoted to his wife and children. He has deep core doctrinaire leftist beliefs, and while he denies that they’re leftist, he’s quite explicit about what his beliefs are. His critics on the left complain that he compromises on his beliefs before he has to, though his supporters consider that political pragmatism.
Obamacare is not corruption. Despite the “Cornhusker Kickback” and other troublesome deals, to say he did anything radically different in the sausage-making legislative process would be unfair. His 2012 character assassination of Mitt Romney was political hard-ball, not corruption. As they say, “politics ain’t beanbag.” George H.W. Bush ran a tough campaign against Michael Dukakis. As long as the candidate doesn’t craft outright lies, we’re willing to hold our noses and call it “politics.”
There are real scandals around Obama. That the media ignores them doesn’t make them nonexistent, just as the media’s obsession with something doesn’t make it a scandal. Solyndra, Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the NLRB suing Boeing, and Lisa Jackson’s EPA emails are all serious scandals involving government corruption at the highest levels. At the minimum they show Obama to be ignorant or indifferent to what’s going on in his own administration. Republicans trying to get to the truth of these issues encounter Democrats allowing winning at all costs to supersede dead bodies.
Obama has a habit of “bullying” people who disagree with him in a way his predecessor never did. Often petulant and narcissistic (and aloof), Obama refuses to treat political opponents with decency, respect, and dignity. He sees them as enemies. Critics disagree with him. He and his supporters hate them, a serious and unfortunate distinction.
Democrats aren’t all corrupt, nor are all Republicans saints. However, Republican presidents are held to much higher standards today by the press, so unlike their Democratic couterparts, they have to be purer than Caesar’s wife.
Obama is not the most corrupt President in even recent American history, and more evidence would be needed to accuse him of serious corruption at all. The real poster-boy for corruption would be Clinton, who was morally bankrupt on every level. Clintonites do not dispute this. They just find it irrelevant. Yet Obama is nowhere near as honest as either Bush.
Obama’s brand of corruption falls far short of impeachable. Circumstantial evidence of illegalities exist, but nothing concrete. He has managed to keep a lid on investigations into the various scandals. If proof surfaces, and is as damning as critics suspect, only then would impeachment be an appropriate option.
For now, he is just a man of less than stellar character who could improve his ethical life.
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